Coalition Pushes for Smoke-Free Venues


Smoke-free Jackson, an anti-smoking coalition, is on a mission to have smoking banned from all Jackson businesses, including restaurants and bars, to protect Jackson's workers. Jackson City Council President Leslie McLemore announced on Oct. 15 that he will be introducing a city ordinance banning smoking in all public places, similar to bans in neighboring Ridgeland.

The dangers of secondhand smoke are well known. A 2007 Surgeon General's report says "many cancer-causing and toxic chemicals are higher in secondhand smoke than in the smoke inhaled by smokers." The report goes on to say that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work increase their risk of developing heart disease by 25 to 30 percent, and their risk of developing lung cancer by 20 to 30 percent.

In a survey of 500 registered Jackson voters commissioned by the coalition, 73 percent of citizens responded favorably to banning smoking in Jackson businesses. Secondhand smoke is a health hazard, say 94 percent of respondents, and 85 percent feel that it is the government's responsibility to promote and protect the public's health.

"At some point the issue will come to the council," McLemore said. "We'll introduce it … and then have discussions and see how involved the city wants to be," McLemore said. "I think we'll have four votes. I'm not pretty dang sure, but I think we'll have four votes."

The survey, conducted by Little Rock-based Opinion Research Associates, also showed that 95 percent of those surveyed said they feel no one should be exposed to secondhand smoke in the workplace.

The Smoke-free Jackson coalition includes local organizations such as 100 Black Men, 100 Concerned Clergy, Anderson United Methodist Church, the Jackson chapter of the American Cancer Society and other health organizations. The coalition hopes to hold public hearings on the issue this month and push a vote in the city council by the end of November.

In related news, Communities for a Clean Bill of Health, a group on the forefront of the campaign to increase the cigarette tax in Mississippi by $1, held their annual luncheon on Oct. 30. The luncheon focused on where the organization is today and on sharing strategies for the future.


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